Biden, Ryan back presidential front men at debate

(RNN) - Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney tightened the race for the White House with a resounding win over President Barack Obama in their first debate, setting the stage for an increasingly important, winner-take-all showdown between the vice presidential nominees.

Vice President Joe Biden and Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan will take the stage at Centre College in Danville, KY, at 9 p.m. ET Thursday for their only debate. Obama saw his projected lead in Electoral College votes diminish and his small lead in the nationwide pre-debate polls evaporate, leaving a dead heat in some polls and a small Romney lead in others.

Biden and Ryan will discuss their campaigns' policies on foreign and domestic policy issues. Like the presidential debate, the event is expected to last 90 minutes.

ABC News chief foreign correspondent Martha Raddatz will moderate the debate. Unlike last week's domestic policy event moderated by Jim Lehrer, Raddatz intends on dividing the debate into nine segments instead of six.

Each segment will last approximately 10 minutes and open with a policy question. The candidates will have two minutes to respond and can use the rest of each segment to discuss the topic.

Raddatz is no stranger to the politics surrounding the White House. She previously served as ABC's chief White House correspondent during the second term of the George W. Bush administration.

She joined ABC News in 1999 as the State Department correspondent but also covered the Pentagon for NPR from 1993 to 1998. With her extensive knowledge of foreign policy, the debate has the potential to focus on international issues.

National security and the war in Afghanistan are the two most likely topics, but viewers should expect the candidates to follow up on domestic policy points made in the presidential debate.

Ryan, who has extensive experience in finance and budgeting, will likely tout the Romney campaign's stance on healthcare, corporate tax reform and capping federal spending.

Biden may bring up the administration's success in passing healthcare reform, Wall Street reform, private sector job growth and withdrawing troops from the Middle East.

Danville and Centre College was a surprise selection as the debate site, but Centre also served as the site of the 2000 vice presidential debate featuring former V.P. Dick Cheney and Sen. Joe Lieberman. Wednesday's debate has electrified Centre's campus of 1,350 undergraduates and the 16,000 residents of Danville, where the event is being called "The Trill in the 'Ville," with tongue firmly in cheek.

A far cry from Denver, the site of last week's debate, Danville and Centre were chosen in part because of the previous success as a host location, according to election officials.

"First, Centre did an outstanding job of hosting the 2000 vice presidential debate," said Debate Commission executive director Janet Brown in a news release. "Second, Centre's principal players from that debate are still at the college, and we value that experience. Finally, Centre's facilities, as good as they were in 2000, are vastly improved now."

Though Centre specifically planned the school's fall break to coincide with the debate, the school does not expect student participation to suffer. Aside from having an opportunity to volunteer during the event, students are encouraged to attend Centre's debate festival, which includes live entertainment, various political programs and a live outdoor broadcast of the debate.

The third presidential debate will take place at 9 p.m. Oct. 16 and will follow a town meeting format that includes foreign and domestic policy questions. Candidates will field questions from the audience at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY.

CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley is scheduled to become the first woman to moderate a presidential debate.

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